John O’Shea departs stage as new kids step up against USA

Graham Burke and Alan Judge score their first international goals in friendly win


Republic of Ireland 2 USA 1

It is hard to imagine John O’Shea minding too much but his starring role somehow got overshadowed in this, his final senior international, as the show was sort of stolen by Graham Burke and Alan Judge.

Having made a little bit of history on Monday night in Paris by becoming the first player from the League of Ireland to be capped for the country in 11 years, Burke made a good deal more this time out by becoming the first in 40 to actually score for Ireland with Ray Treacy, also then of Shamrock Rovers, the last one to manage it back in 1978.

With a minute or so to go that looked like it would be the highlight of the evening for the hosts but after coming on late again Judge this time got a the winner. After all that the Brentford midfielder had endured these past couple of years, it seemed the perfect happy ending that was more about the stories involved than the quality of or cutting edge to the football.

O’Shea, in any case, got his send off – 34 minutes as captain before being replaced – but Darragh Lenihan might be forgiven for feeling slightly aggrieved that he did not get a share of the limelight too. His shot for Ireland’s equaliser looked as though it was heading goalwards with or without a touch on the line by Burke. Still, with defenders lurking the Rovers forward could be forgiven for feeling he was right to take the touch.

That goal got Ireland back on terms in a game that looked very much like the end of season friendly that it was. Martin O’Neill made changes to both the team and tactics – Seamus Coleman and James McClean resumed their wing back roles – employed in Paris and Ireland never did less than their own in what was, unsurprisingly, a much more even contest. Late on, they pushed fairly relentlessly for their winner and though Bill Hamid didn’t have too many saves to make, the locals were ultimately worth their first win in five.

By then, Lenihan had missed out on a goal again when his headed effort from 12 yards was disallowed for offside and the Americans had all but shut up shop after an enterprising start in which George Weah’s son Tim and young Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie had both looked good.

Ireland, with Declan Rice looking more effective this time in the midfield holding role, had posed little threat over the opening 45 minutes but still might have opened the scoring just before the break when Burke fed James McClean out on the left, Hamid spilled the cross and Seamus Coleman inexplicably fired the ball straight to the feet of Jon Walters who had his back to goal. At it flew harmlessly away Jeff Hendrick – a few feet further back and facing the target – let the his skipper know pretty forcefully that he should have done better.

But the Burnley midfielder had rather less to shout about a few moments later as the Americans went up the other end and scored. It came from a free kick, well out on the right, that Will Trapp sent to the far side of the box where Matt Miazga climbed highest to meet it. Hendrick should then have been the next player to make contact but, perhaps misjudging how close James McClean was, he left it and Colin Doyle was caught completely cold as Bobby Wood suddenly changed the flight the ball from a few yards with an outstretched leg.

In the end it didn’t matter. Burke’s goal came from a well worked set piece, Judge’s from an opportunistic strike that flew in off the underside of the cross bar after the Dubliner had been gifted the shooting opportunity by McClean’s attempt to drive into the area himself.

O’Neill will be relieved to get the goals and the win, both of which have been a while coming but how many of the teams underlying problems have really been addressed over the past few weeks is another thing.

The manager was left with much to mull over. For Burke and Judge, though, there will only be celebrations.

Republic of Ireland: Doyle (Bradford City); Coleman (Everton), Duffy (Brighton and Hove Albion), O’Shea (Sunderland), Long (Burnley), McClean (West Brom); Hendrick (Burnley), Rice (West Ham), Burke (Shamrock Rovers), O’Dowda (Bristol City); Walters (Burnley).

Subs: Lenihan (Blackburn) for O'Shea (34mins), Horgan (Preston) for Burke (58 mins), Stevens (Sheffield United) for Duffy (77 mins), Arther (Bournemouth) for Hendrick (82 mins), Judge (Brentford) for O’Dowda (88 mins).

USA: Hamid (Midtjylland); Yedlin (Newcastle United), Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur), Miazga (Chelsea), Villafana (Santos Laguna); Trapp (Columbus Crew); Weah (PSG), Adams (NY Red Bulls), McKennie (Schalke 04), Rubin (Club Tijuana); Wood (Hamburg).

Subs: Parker (NY Red Bulls) for Carter-Vickers (61 mins), Moore (Levante) for Yedlin and Sargent (Werder Bremen) for Wood (69 mins), De La Torre (Fulham) for Rublin (77 mins), Corona (Club America) for McKennie (81 mins).

Referee: A Dallas (Scotland).

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